Chief Secretary E.K. Bharat Bhushan has expressed concern over the absence of drinking water facility, toilets, and proper lighting on the four-kilometre Pampa-Marakoottom Swami Ayyappan Road leading to Sabarimala.

Mr. Bhushan was reviewing the arrangements made by various government departments and the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) at Sabarimala at a meeting at Pampa on Saturday.

The Chief Secretary said it was unfortunate that the authorities concerned had failed to provide toilets, drinking water facility, and proper lighting on the modernised road. He said the absence of toilets was forcing the pilgrims to attend the call of nature in the forests.

Mr. Bhushan constituted a committee comprising officials of the Forest Department, Kerala Water Authority (KWA), and the TDB to explore the possibility of setting up bio-toilets and laying water lines along Swami Ayyappan Road on a war-footing basis.

Kunnar dam

Meanwhile, the Forest Department has objected to the TDB move to raise the height of the Kunnar dam in the forests in an effort to augment the storage capacity of the drinking water supply scheme at Sabarimala.

The dam, constructed in the 1950s, has been the main drinking water source of Sabarimala Sannidhanam.

The Forest Department is of the view that raising the dam height would mean additional inundation of the forests, which requires special clearance from the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests.

The department suggested setting up of additional storage facility in the downstream of the existing dam, instead of raising its height.

However, Devaswom Commissioner P. Venugopal said the Centre for Earth Science Studies had conducted a detailed study and maintained that there was nothing wrong in raising the height of Kunnar dam by 2 metres. The TDB had applied for environment clearance for the same from the Centre.

Mr. Venugopal said augmentation of the storage capacity of Kunnar dam was a must to ensure uninterrupted supply of drinking water to Sabarimala, especially during the rush days of the annual Mandalam-Makaravilakku pilgrim season.

Water purification

The Chief Secretary said the KWA has proposed construction of a modern water purification plant at Pampa Hilltop at an estimated cost of Rs 25 crore, replacing the existing system of pressure filter units at Pampa.

Mr. Bhushan said the government would study the proposal received from the Fire and Rescue Services for setting up a full-fledged unit at Chalakkayam.

The Police Department informed the Chief Secretary that providing foolproof security to women pilgrims in the age group of 10 to 50 who reached Pampa along with various pilgrim groups from the neighbouring States was a difficult task at a crowded place like Pampa.

The department was of the view that such women should not be permitted beyond Nilackal, and the pilgrimage group concerned should arrange safe accommodation for them either at Pathanamthitta or nearby places before proceeding to Pampa from Nilackal.

K.R. Jyotilal, Devaswom Secretary; Pranab Jyotinath, District Collector; Putta Vimaladitya, Superintendent of Police, and P.S. Jolly Ullas, TDB Chief Engineer, spoke at the meeting.

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